Even though the Jets offense looks infinitely better with Mike White running it, we still see many people - even MFW supporters - continuing to treat Wilson as a Blue Chip draftee and White as the Cinderella carriage that could turn back into a pumpkin at any moment.
Superficially, it is easy to see why. Zach Wilson was drafted #2 overall while Mike White was a Day 3 pick. But giving Wilson special treatment based solely on draft position would be a classic example of the Sunk Cost Fallacy.
Instead, if fans, pundits, and the Jets organization are going to continue to treat Zach Wilson as worthy of special attention then we need to look closely and see whether such treatment is deserved.
The purpose of this post is to compare White and Wilson and to show that there is no particular reason to believe that Wilson is more likely to develop into a QB capable of winning a Super Bowl than Mike White is.
First, I will look at college stats. Then I will look at the QB traits of the two QBs coming out of college.
The College Stats
As you can see, both Wilson and White had one standout year (Wilson in 2020 and White in 2016, when Western Kentucky went 11-3 including a loss to #1 Alabama). White had a slightly down year in 2017. I've seen attributed to poor OL play. And Wilson left after his Junior year, so we'll never know if he could have replicated his 2020 success.
Simply based on the raw college stats, there was no reason to think that Wilson was a significantly better QB prospect.
The QB Traits
The job of a QB is not simple. There are a number of traits that go into being a good NFL QB, including:
- Physical Size (height, weight, hand size, etc.)
- Arm Strength
- Pass Touch
- Pocket Awareness
- Pocket Mobility
- Scrambling/Rushing Ability
- Grasp of Offensive Scheme and Playbook
- Ability to Pre-Snap Read
- Ability to Post-Snap Read
- Ability to Work Through Progressions
- Look off Defenders
- Footwork and Mechanics
- Quick Release
- Leadership Traits
Mike White's Arm Strength
White’s arm talent is considered to be one of his best attributes. He can throw the ball with good zip but also with touch when required. As a former baseball player, he was apparently capable of throwing a 90+ miles per hour fastball.
During his first year at Western Kentucky, White led the nation in 30+ and 40+ yard passes, many of which came on downfield throws.
It is easy to look at Zach's number 2 draft slot and White's 5th round, 171st draft slot and think that Wilson is clearly the Blue Chip prospect who deserves far more attention because he has way more upside. But that simply isn't the case.
In reality, the two players could easily have been drafted very closely. Had White's offensive line been a little better in 2017, and had he replicated his 2016 numbers, White is likely being drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round, if not in the late 1st.
On the flip side, Wilson was no QB prospect on the level of Trevor Lawrence (who likely would have been drafted in the 1st round no matter how badly he played in 2020). Had Wilson not had quite as an amazing year in 2020 (and perhaps benefitted from the randomness of that COVID season) then he would have been perceived as more of a project and drafted in the 3rd round or later.
Put another way, it would have been quite easy, with only a few changes in circumstances, for both Wilson and White to have been 3rd round picks. In which case, nobody would be saying that Wilson should get 21+ games to develop while White should only get 5 or 6. And nobody would be saying, after White has clearly learned how to function in the NFL, that the Jets must move on from him next year no matter what happens this season.
So while many people are saying that the Jets can't prioritize the development of Wilson over the Jets' playoff chances, the truth is that there would be no reason to prioritize Wilson over White even if the Jets weren't in the playoff hunt.
There is simply no reason to think that Zach Wilson is more likely to develop into a decent NFL QB than Mike White will. I'm not saying that there is no chance and that Zach is a bust. But we shouldn't get fooled by their respective draft slots into thinking that Wilson was ever a night-and-day better prospect than Mike White was.